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Seeing Stars!

>> Sunday, March 21, 2010

I realized that after doing a few Name That Creature posts on Facebook that I should really make sure many of the creatures featured have a post on Potspoon! to make it easier to look up. First on this list of creatures I have skipped is the reticulated sea star or the cushion star, Oreaster reticulatus. Adults get beautiful reds, browns, and yellows that are striking and easy to spot while snorkeling or diving. They can also reach sizes of 50 cm (almost 20 inches).

This sea star is very common in the western Atlantic and is a very visible creature in sea grass beds throughout the Caribbean. Since they spend much of their lives in sea grass beds, the juveniles are green in color to blend in with their surroundings. They rarely hang out in deeper waters. Here in the Virgin Islands you will find them amongst the Thalassia testudinum beds. If you recall, T. testudinum is referred to as turtle grass and is also where you commonly find our friend the queen conch.

Hanging out in these turtle grass beds allows them a diverse diet consisting mainly of sea sponges that wash in from reefs and various forms of mollusks. To eat, they actually put their stomachs out of their "mouth" then digest partially what they are consuming. When ready, they suck their stomachs back inside!

Like is the norm for echinoderms (although exceptions always seem to pop up), they use a water vascular system for structure and to use the tube feet they move around with. Believe it or not, these guys are related to urchins and sea cucumbers! There are many reasons how, but perhaps we will save that for another post!

Now you know a basic rundown of the amazing cushion (or reticulated depending on where you get your info) sea star. Feel free to leave any questions in the comments!


The Queen March 21, 2010 at 3:51 PM  

Great idea on posting it on here your science page. You should also put the name the creature on here as well for those of us no longer on facebk. I feel left out of naming the creature.That way you will have more readers as well on here. I guess you can put on facebk that another creature was posted on your blog so they have to come here and name it. Only a suggestion.

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